The Co-operative Group today (1 July) stayed tight-lipped over reports in the UK that its planned acquisition of Somerfield could be sealed this week.

The Co-op, which has been in talks with Somerfield since April, is bidding to become the UK's fifth-largest grocer.

Reports in the UK have claimed a deal over Somerfield, which runs over 900 stores in the country, could be clinched within days.

A spokesman for the Co-op refused to be drawn on the reports and said: "When we're in a position to make an announcement, we will."

Talks between the two companies began after the Co-op emerged as the only potential suitor to table a formal bid for the whole Somerfield business, which was put up for sale in January.

The group's owners - a consortium including property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz, Apax Partners and Barclays Capital - are believed to be looking for up to GBP2bn (US$4bn) for the chain but the Co-op spokesman refused to be drawn on how much the company would pay.

Morrisons, the UK's fourth-largest grocer, indicated last month that it would be interested in possibly buying any Somerfield stores sold on after the Co-op buys the group.